>> announcer: this is "nightline." tonight, junior under fire. donald trump's eldest son taking heat for meeting with a russian lawyer with the promise of dirt on hillary clinton during the campaign. his personal e-mails revealing he was eager to receive it. defending himself from hannity tonight. >> i can't help what someone sends me. i read it. i responded accordingly. >> was the trump campaign willing to consider help from the kremlin, and was it illegal? >> in retrospect i probably would have done things a little differently. young people who lived through unimaginable hardship. surrounded by drugs, violence, even war. never losing hope or their faith. now after years of perseverance living their dreams.
good evening. thank you for joining us. donald trump jr., the first son, embroiled in controversy tonight over a meeting he took with a russian lawyer during his father's presidential campaign. don jr. has fervently denied any connection or collusion between the trump campaign and the russian government. but do his newly released e-mails suggest otherwise? here's abc's david wright. >> reporter: tonight the president's eldest son put himself at the center of the story that's become a national political obsession. russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion by trump associates. donald trump jr. released a series of e-mails from june of last year. the sender dangles the prospect of juicy secrets, official documents and information that would incriminate hillary and her dealings with russia and
would be very useful to your father. also cautioning "this is obviously very high-level and sensitive information but is part of russia and its government's support for mr. trump." the president's son told fox news tonight -- >> i can't help what someone sends me. you know? i read it. i responded accordingly. and if there was something interesting there, i think it's pretty common. >> reporter: the e-mails reveal don jr. leapt at the offer. "if it's what you say, i love it. especially for later in the summer." he forwarded the chain under the heading "russia clinton private and confidential" to jared kushner and then campaign chair paul manafort and set up a meeting. until today trump jr. claimed kushner and manafort were unaware what the meeting was about. but the e-mails show they were told what he knew going in. >> in retrospect i probably would have done things a little differently. again, this is before the russia-mania. this is before they were building it up in the press. for me this was opposition research.
they had something. maybe concrete evidence to all the stories i'd been hearing about that were probably underreported for years, not just during the campaign. so i think i wanted to hear it out. but really it went nowhere. >> reporter: trump jr. insists he did not tell his father about the e-mails. having just secured the nomination, candidate trump was in reading, california that day. >> wouldn't it be nice if we actually got along with russia? wouldn't that be good? is that a bad thing? >> reporter: whooping up the crowd by praising vladimir putin and trash-talking the last remaining opponent between him and the white house. >> i think hillary is very weak. i think she's pathetic. she should be in jail for what she did with those e-mails. >> reporter: trump jr. says he's releasing the e-mails now because he has nothing to hide. in order to be totally transparent. but "the new york times" points out he did so only after they told him they were getting ready to publish the e-mails themselves. the meeting ultimately took place the week after that e-mail
exchange began. june 9th, 2016 at trump tower. trump jr., kushner, and manafort all there. they met with this woman, an attorney named natalia veselnitskaya, allegedly well connected with the kremlin, a familiar figure in washington lobbying against russian sanctions, seen here at a congressional hearing last june, days after that meeting with don jr. tonight in moscow she denied she ever had any damaging or sensitive information about hillary clinton and claimed the meeting was not for that purpose. she says kushner left after just a couple of minutes and man afort spent the whole time on his phone. her denial squares with don jr.'s account. the woman, he writes, "was not a government official and as we have said she had no information to provide and wanted to talk about adoption policy and the magnitsky act." >> if what you're trying to do is essentially a russian intelligence operation to assist an american political campaign,
the last thing you do is send an obviously visible attributable russian representative into the headquarters of that campaign. >> reporter: so the president's critics are already seizing on this and saying a-ha. but dan abrams, is this the smoking gun? >> well, it's not going to be the smoking gun for the larger investigation that robert mueller is doing. but the question of is this criminal with regard to donald trump jr., there's a strong argument to be made that this is a technical violation of campaign finance law. >> reporter: campaign finance law prohibits political campaigns from accepting anything of value from a foreign entity. and political dirt could be seen as valuable. >> i don't believe that agreeing to the meeting per se is a violation. assuming that there was something of value that was passed to the campaign, then there could be a financial
penalty. >> reporter: the cast of characters in this russian election saga is already more complicated than a tolstoy novel. and today joining the generals and the komisars and the privileges princes some unusual new characters. the beauty pageant world. zblvg t >> of course the big man on campus, donald trump. >> reporter: and the russian pop music scene. that first e-mail to don jr. came from a british tabloid journalist and record executive, rob goldstone, who name-dropped some powerful russian contacts. his client, emin agalarov, a russian popgalarov, a top russi real estate mogul. >> hi, everybody. welcome to moscow. >> reporter: aras co-sponsored the miss universe pageant in moscow with trump sr. vladimir putin gave aras russia's medal of honor. and both father and son spent time with trump at the pageant.
♪ trump even did a cameo in one of emin's music videos. >> come on. what's wrong with you? >> emin agalarov's lawyer told abc news they understood the meeting was to discuss sanctions, not hillary or her campaign. >> reporter: today's e-mails at the very least call into question all those denials from team trump. >> are there any ties between mr. trump, you or your campaign and putin and his regime? >> no, there are not. it's absurd. there's no basis to it. >> did anyone involved in the trump campaign have any contact with russians? >> absolutely not. and i discussed that with the president-elect just last night. >> i have nothing to do with russia. to the best of my knowledge, no person that i deal with does. >> reporter: donald trump jr., among his father's most vociferous defenders, has steadfastly dismissed suggestions that the trump campaign had anything to do with russian meddling. >> it's disgusting. it's so phony i can't think of
bigger lies. but that exactly goes to show you what the dnc and what the clinton camp will do. they will lie and do anything to win. >> reporter: he said that just two weeks after holding that meeting in trump tower. the president himself tonight promoted his son's appearance on fox news, tweeting, "he is a great person who loves our country." >> i am told behind closed doors here at the white house the president is furious, that he has been fuming at his aides, frustrated that the russia story simply won't go away. >> reporter: today on capitol hill -- >> these e-mails are sending shock waves through these hallways. democrats i've talked with say no question, this is a game changer. >> donald trump jr. was openly salivating about the prospect of getting damaging information from the russians. it is certainly evidence of collusi collusion. >> reporter: hillary clinton's former running mate took an especially sharp view. >> this is moving into perjury, false statements, and even potentially treason. >> at least one republican i've talked with is coming to the
defense of the administration. >> it's way too early to reach conclusions based on these e-mails. >> you're offered assistance from a foreign government in your campaign the only answer is no. so i'm not going to condemn the guy in the e-mail but this is something, the most problematic thing i've seen thus far. >> there is one thing both sides of the aisle here seem to agree on. they want to hear from donald trump jr. here on capitol hill and soon. >> so the optics are important here, not just for political purposes but also legally. >> in the big scheme of the law it's pretty minor. it would mean fines. the bigger picture issue for them is does this become a critical piece in the bigger puzzle that robert mueller is potentially putting together? >> reporter: lawyers say there could be some jeopardy for jared kushner, who had previously not disclosed the meeting with the russian lawyer. trump jr. told fox tonight that in the end that meeting in trump
tower turned up nothing of value. >> i wouldn't have even remembered it until you start scouring through the stuff. it was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame. >> reporter: but trump's critics and his inquiz tors are unlikely to let him forget this. they now have a lot more questions. i'm david wright for "nightline" in new york. next, the inspirational story. a young woman who grew up surrounded by drug use and mental illness now living her dream life. and later -- ♪ opa gangnam style >> gangnam style is no longer the most watched youtube video of all time. so what took its place? ♪ ♪ gangnam style ♪ op, op, op, gangnam style ♪ hey, sexy lady
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what's a hero? sports star? a celebrity? what about an ordinary person who steps up and meets adversity with hope? in my new book "be the one" i set out to meet these unsung heroes who conquer their hardships with fierce determination. tonight we introduce you to some of these extraordinary young people. at 23 mccala sanderson is living the life many her age only dream of. married last year to her high school sweetheart, both graduates of the university of alabama, roll tide, both with careers they love. >> welcome to our new humble abode. >> nice. >> reporter: they just bought their first home, a loft in one of atlanta's trendiest new neighborhoods. >> as you can tell, we've got a little bit of work to do. >> reporter: what's the vision?
what's the dream? >> white walls. a lot of painting. painting everything. >> reporter: but what's so remarkable about this young woman isn't where she landed but the road she took to get here. >> life is pretty good for you guys right now. >> it is, yeah. >> how do you explain it? >> i don't know. a lot of perseverance. a lot of prayer. >> reporter: and an equal measure of grit. mckayla sanderson was born dirt poor in rural alabama. she and her twin the youngest of seven. her mother she says a drug abuser and the victim of mental illness. >> not always running water food on the table. >> reporter: mckayla is one of six people profiled in my new book "be the one: wounded souls who found hope within." >> for my mom's drug use it was mostly sleeping pills or prescription pills. >> reporter: there was that one night when her mother's exhausting struggle with depression, bipolar disorder and epilepsy, hit rock bottom. >> i was 11 years old. for some reason i hid the gun from her and she kept asking where it was, was waking me up in the middle of the night.
and she kept pushing, kept pu pushing. so eventually i told her where it was and fell back asleep. then i woke up to the gun clocking. so i ran in there and immediately -- felt like forever, trying to talk her out of doing this. she moved the gun around from her heart to her head. it was just kind of -- i don't know. just kind of gaming me. i'm not sure. she eventually put it to her stomach and did pull the trigger while i was in the room. >> reporter: her mother survived, but mckayla and her twin sister were placed in foster care. by her senior year in high school she'd been to nine different schools. bruised but not broken she graduated top of her high school class while holding down a full-time job. >> how many hours a week did you work? >> it was up to like 36 hours a week. my schedule really looked like school, then coming home applying for scholarships, and then working. i was very much determined to get to college. >> how did you do all that? >> just a lot of hard work. a lot of determination.
>> where does that come from, do you think? >> for me there was no choice not to do it that way. >> any one thing that happened that had it happened to somebody else it would have broken. anything break you, break your faith? >> never broke my faith. >> reporter: faith is something mckayla and i share. my own childhood challenges shaped me as well. my late mom clarice pitts had her first child at 17, me before she finished high school. i didn't learn learn to read until i was 12, spoke way stutter until i was 20. still i only wish i had the tenacity of mckayla and the others in "be the one." >> tell me that story about you and your classmates having to run home that day when the explosions -- how old were you? >> when that started i was about 10. >> reporter: orrian pepe ezebuka was 10 years old when his country the congo was ravaged by war. he saw classmates murdered, relatives raped and tortured. his father had an idea, sell one of his cows and send his boy in search of a better life outside of congo. you and your friends walked from
congo to south africa? >> yes, yes. we walked. >> how long did it take you? >> it took about 2 1/2 years, actually. >> you survived wild animals, drug dealers, sex traffickers, starvation. how'd you do it? >> it wasn't by my own power. i believe there is a higher power that protected us. >> reporter: in "be the one" i ask each one one central question. >> where did you go? where did you hide when the world hurt too much? >> in a dark room. you know, crying, maybe before bed. i guess it was my safe place. no one could see me crying if everyone else was asleep. so. just do it really quietly so nobody would hear me. >> reporter: and she kept going. graduated college in three years. her master's degree in one. with all she's overcome, life had another heartbreak. she's been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. did you ever think, dang it, i've been through so much in my life?
>> yeah. but i was probably in that place for a couple of days and then realized there is ms walk. and i was like i'm going to raise some money and get a team together and fight for a cure. >> the average person would have been angry, would have at the very least felt sorry for themselves. >> mm-hmm. maybe. didn't have time to do that. >> reporter: there is an african proverb that sums up mckayla sanderson's grit. when you pray, move your feet. no telling where you might end up. as a storyteller, as a reporter, i'm always looking for metaphors. so what's the metaphor of this place, do you think? for you guys, for you. >> i think it's authenticity. >> i just keep thinking home. i think it will be -- feel like home for us. it will be, you know, what a home feels like. safe. ♪ and next, there's a new opa in town. the pop song that just overhook "gangnam style" to become the most watched youtube video of all time.
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and finally tonight, another reason that the late actor paul walker will never be forgotten. ♪ opa gangnam style ♪ gangnam style it's the end of an era or earache for some. ♪ hey, sexy lady the k-pop phenomenon "gangnam style" is no longer the most viewed music video on youtube. its successor, the grammy-nominated number "see you again." ♪ it's been a long day without you my friend ♪ ♪ the wiz khalifa and charlie puth tribute track racking up 2.9 billion views on youtube. ♪ how can we not talk about family when family's all that we got ♪ ♪ everything i would do you were standing there by my side ♪ ♪ and now you gonna be with me for the last time ♪ >> the song honored the late paul walker who died while filming the seventh installment of the "fast and furis"